A Derby-Winning Duo: The Father and Son Team Behind Mage

The father-son duo of Gustavo Delgado Sr. and Gustavo Delgado Jr. | Coady


When Gustavo Delgado Jr. was a young boy, his father would drag him out of bed early every morning to go to the racetrack. Growing up in a household that also included his mother, two sisters and a female cousin, Delgado eventually came to look forward to those trackside adventures spending quality time with his father Gustavo Delgado Sr., a member of the Caribbean Racing Hall of Fame as a three-time winner of Venezuela's equivalent of the Triple Crown.

As a teenager, Delgado Jr. relished the celebrity-like status that came with being the son of a local legend.

“He has always been sort of a superhero for me because he has always been at the top wherever he's been,” explained Delgado. “Everywhere we went, people were always asking for tips, asking who to bet on that weekend, that kind of thing. I grew up with that and I always felt special because that was my dad.”

In 2014, the elder Delgado decided to leave a thriving stable in his home country behind at the age of 60 and pursue a lifelong dream of making it to the top of the game in the U.S. It wasn't long before the Delgado name was well known on the Florida racing circuit.

One year after his father moved to the States, Delgado Jr. made a trip to New York to watch American Pharoah claim the 2015 Triple Crown. Before traveling back home, he made a quick stop in Miami to visit his father. While there, his father pitched him on staying in Florida to be his assistant.

At first, Delgado Jr. was hesitant. When his father left Venezuela, Delgado was left in charge of their home stable and he was excited to be overseeing some nice local horses on his own at the age of 28. But ultimately, he decided to follow his father and the vision he had been painting for his son since childhood.

“Since I was a little kid, he was telling me all the time that we should go and try to win one of those races,” Delgado recalled. “Every time the big Classics came on, we were all watching from Venezuela. He always told me that he didn't have any doubt that if we had the right horse, we could win. So he was kind of selling me his dreams, and I bought them all.”

After the Delgados joined forces in America, their stable continued to flourish. They had their first Grade I winner in the U.S. in 2016 with Paulo Queen (Flatter) in the GI Test S. 2016 GII Mac Diarmida S. victor Grand Tito (Candy Ride {Arg}) and Speed Franco (Declaration of War), who won the 2018 GIII Dania Beach S., also helped them gain recognition early. They went to their first GI Kentucky Derby in 2019 with Bodexpress (Bodemeister), who finished 13th but later became a Grade I winner in the 2020 Clark S.

Leading in a Kentucky Derby winner | Coady

Delgado Jr. said that the father-son pair has always worked well together, but he laughed and gave a wry grin when asked about if they ever run into any training-related disagreements.

“We're best friends more than a relationship between father and son,” he explained. “I always say that I'm his biggest fan. Of course, he's not perfect. He can be stubborn. He's like a Lambo. He can go from zero to 200 miles per hour in five seconds. Me, I'm more quiet and chill. I try to be the guy who makes him more chill. When an employee wants to give us bad news, they always come to me first because they don't want to tell him. I'm like the middle man.”

“He's a genuine guy,” he continued. “I mean, my dad  will tell you straight away what he thinks. A filter? He doesn't use that. But that's a good thing about him. I love that about him.”

So, with decades of familiarity with his father's outspokenness, when Delgado Jr. bought a rather pricey chestnut 2-year-old last year and his father made it known that he was not too keen on the purchase, Delgado did not bat an eye.

“Fun fact, he didn't like the horse the first time he saw him,” Delgado said. “He didn't like him because he's got parrot mouth. I remember he looked at me and said, 'The next time you are buying a horse, send me a video first and don't buy a parrot mouth.' But I told him, 'Trust me, this guy can run.'”

That horse, who came to be known as Mage (Good Magic), will be Delgado's forever reminder to trust his instincts. With partner Ramiro Restrepo, he stretched their budget to $290,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale to bring home a future GI Kentucky Derby winner.

“Sometimes it's about following your gut, your intuition,” he said. “I loved the horse. We didn't have the money. We had the credit, but not the money. I told Ramiro, 'Listen, this is the horse. We shouldn't be hesitating. This is the horse we're getting and then we'll find out where the money is going to come from.'”

“It played out well,” he added.

At 15-1 odds, Mage brought home a Kentucky Derby victory for the Delgados' OGMA Investments and Ramiro Restrepo, along with Sam Herzberg's Sterling Racing LLC and Brian Doxtator and Chase Chamberlin's Commonwealth. The Delgados' lifelong dream had come to fruition.

Seeing all his family members gathering around for a photo in the winner's circle, Delgado Jr. said, brought back memories of when he was a little boy celebrating big wins with his father back in their home country.

“My mom, my two sisters and my nephews and nieces were here together,” he said. “My nieces and nephews are so little–they are between five and nine years old–and for them to have that kind of experience, I think that was one of the things that I feel most proud of. I know they will never forget being there. When you're so little, that goes through your subconscious. That will stay with you forever. So they will look at my dad like a superhero and maybe me as well.”

All systems are officially 'go' for a trip to Baltimore this weekend, as the Mage team confirmed Friday morning. Delgado Jr.'s confidence in his horse is at an all-time high ahead of next Saturday's GI Preakness S.

“Everything about him special,” he said of Mage. “He's fast and he's got a good mind. He's so quiet. When he's around an environment that might be noisy with people around him, he's so chill about it. [He is able to] go in between horses during the race. He can keep back, he can be in the middle, inside or outside. He doesn't care about anything like that.”

No matter the outcome in the Preakness, or how far their success grows from here, the Delgados will always remember Mage as the horse that made a lifelong dream become a reality.

“It's been overwhelming in a good way,” Delgado Jr. said as he reflected on an unforgettable week. “When you ask what was the purpose of accomplishing something like this, it's about showing people that it can be done. Because the thing is, if you look back on not having the same resources, not having the same tools [as other] people trying to accomplish something like this, it gives you a good perspective that it can be done. This just started with a vision, with a dream. We imagined that we can do it. We didn't know where that horse was coming from or where the money was coming from. We didn't have a plan. We just wanted to do it.”

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